Two Amber Alerts have been issued in the state of Texas since Sunday. One alert was issued out of Fort Worth after Lisa Underwood and her 7-year old son Jaden were reported missing. They were later found murdered.
Another was issued out of Tyler Tuesday night after 16 year-old Jessica Hart disappeared, she still remains missing as of Wednesday, February 23rd.
Before the public can even see the face of a missing child on a poster, law enforcement agencies have a list of requirements each case must meet. The Lubbock County Sheriff's Office found out about the requirements firsthand after 17 year-old Joanna Rogers disappeared nine months ago.
|Joanna Rogers Website|
It's been well over a year since President Bush signed legislation making the Amber Alert system a national program. Since then, out of over 250 cases reported on codeamber.org, 12 children are still missing, including Joanna Rogers.
"There's not magic, there's no book that says this is how you find a missing person. There are steps you take, steps law enforcement takes and you keep going through the steps," said Joanna's mother, Cathy Rogers.
In may 2004, Joanna disappeared. Two days later, thousands of people across West Texas saw her picture. Lubbock County Sheriff's Office Investigators issued a local Amber Alert, a small form of comfort for Joanna's family.
"There's a sense of immediate action when an Amber Alert is issued and I think that's very important in trying to find missing persons," said Rogers.
However, to qualify for "Amber Alert" status, the victim must be 17 or under, and law enforcement must believe the child was "abducted" and is in immediate danger. The governor's office is then alterted, they relay the alert to the National Weather Service, DPS offices, and TXDOT. Those groups post pictures on the internet and highway signs if needed. All of which must happen as quickly as possible.
|Texas Amber Alert Updates|
"Within a three hour time period, the likelihood of a child surviving diminish greatly," said Lubbock County Sheriff's Office Investigator, Lt. Cody Scott.
When an Amber Alert is issued for our area, NewsChannel 11 receives e-mail alerts and faxes. It's then up to the station to decide if it's broadcast over the air.
"I don't think it's mandatory, I think it's a moral obligation. What news agency would want to say they did not put that information out," said Scott.
"The Amber Alert is a comfort, but it's not necessarily the only solution," said Rogers.
The immediate action of the Amber Alert didn't bring Joanna home, but Rogers believes in the system, and she believes Joanna is still out there.
In Joanna's case, the Sheriff's Office issued a local Amber Alert. In order for it to go statewide, officers must have information on a suspect as well as vehicle identification information. Officers had neither piece of information in her case.
Cathy Rogers has spoken with a producer for a television show on missing kids, which is still in the works. She also receives constant ideas from missing persons agencies.